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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Bill offers hope for Webcasters

By Burt Lum

Perhaps I am preoccupied with music on the Net.

Granted, it gives me untold hours of pleasure, listening to those bits streaming over the broadband, right into my computer. In a matter of a few mouse clicks, I can access concert footage, live radio stations and Internet-only music shows.

Judging from the e-mail response I've been getting, many of you readers equally enjoy this plethora of music choices.

But this has all been under siege by the Library of Congress and the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel, or CARP.

As reported here on July 16, a proposed royalty fee structure would put many Webcasters out of business. Especially affected would be the noncommercial radio stations, college stations and small Webcasters. These are the outlets where most of the alternative, niche music survives.

You can read the details at www.copyright.gov/carp/webcasting_rates_final.html. Just the fees contemplated, not to mention the tracking and reporting requirements, would put any small Webcaster into a tailspin.

On July 26, Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., introduced the Internet Radio Fairness Act. The late Rep. Patsy Mink co-sponsored HR 5285. This legislation would exempt small Webcasters from the royalties imposed by the Library of Congress, at least until the next CARP decision.

A brief discussion of this is on Inslee's Web site, www.house.gov/inslee/tech_internetradio.htm. The Internet Radio Fairness Act hasn't been approved by the House and is still up for debate and vote.

On Sept. 27, a bill recommending a six-month suspension of the Library of Congress royalty fees was introduced. This piece of legislation morphed into a 28-page bill called the Small Webcasters Settlement Act. On Nov. 15, the transformed bill passed both the House and Senate and is now awaiting President Bush's signature.

The Small Webcasters Settlement Act is more complex than a suspension of royalty payments. It spells out a way for small Webcasters to enter into a "voluntary agreement" with the receiving agent of royalty payments, as with Soundexchage (www.soundexchange.com).

You can read more details of this evolving situation at www.kurthanson.com/archive/news/111502. ;-)

Burt Lum is a click away at burt@brouhaha.net.